A 32-year-old Nagpur resident, who was sentenced to death by a trial court eight months ago for sodomising and brutally killing a 2-and-a-half-year-old child in May 2010, was acquitted by the Bombay high court on Friday.
“The evidence given by the prosecution may be strong, but it cannot take the place of proof,” said the division bench of justice AP Lavande and justice AB Chaudhari while acquitting Chandrashekhar Atram.
According to the prosecution’s case, on May 14, 2010, Atram, a native of Madhya Pradesh, had allegedly taken the child, sodomised him and then strangled him to death. In June 2012, a trial court at Nagpur convicted him for the crime and handed him the death penalty.
Atram had challenged his conviction and capital punishment in an appeal before the high court, which also heard a reference forwarded by the trial court for confirmation of the death sentence.
The high court bench found that the prosecution had failed to prove the case against the accused, and acquitted him of all charges.
The bench found two important aspects of the case based on circumstantial evidence: the last-seen theory and the discovery of the child’s body at the instance of the accused were not proved by the prosecution beyond reasonable doubt.
The bench found the evidence of two prosecution witnesses, who claimed they had seen the child being taken by Atram, highly suspicious.
The high court doubted the credibility of the evidence primarily because the witnesses were with the child’s father when they went to lodge a missing person report, but did not utter anything about the child being last seen in the company of the accused.
From the medical evidence on record, the court also refused to believe the prosecution evidence suggesting the accused had sodomised the child.